Saturday, July 30, 2011

Why I Believe the Referendum Could Fail, by Joe Conte

Blogger's Note, by Nick: When Joe approached me with this post, I was skeptical, but on the whole I think we all need to hear what he is saying.  This is not a slam dunk on Monday, and these are the most likely reasons if it were to fail.  

This post is not meant to be an abandon ship, but an exhortation to not take anything for granted and spend these last 2 days motivating anyone we can find to come out and vote.  We can stop this, but it's a much taller order than some people may realize.

Also, the standard disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are Joe's, and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs of myself or Dave (for example, I have a friend in the Nassau DA's office, who is a member of the CSEA and says the vast majority of his office plans to vote yes).  However, Joe's perspective and realism are important so we don't get complacent and understand the true nature of what we've involved ourselves with.

Without further ado, here's Joe:

I wish it didn't come to this, and I hope I'm proven spectacularly wrong on Monday, but if I read my tea leaves right, I feel obligated to write this post.  The reasons I lay out below are varied and complex, as any political issue often is.  If this does go down, you can't point the finger at just one person.  Mistakes have been made across the board by everyone with a vested interest in seeing this referendum passed.  Now onto those reasons why.

1.  Mangano is not an effective leader.

His defense of this bond has been mediocre at best.  He's not articulate (I know we joke about the areener thing, but his inability to even pronounce the word is symbolic of his handling of the whole situation).  His decision to alienate NIFA by not going to them first created another veto point and more elite level opposition (and I prescribe to theory of elite level of policy making). His resistance to creating a lockbox for the bond revenue is a huge liability with the Democrats.  It further stoked their level of skepticism and allowed them to question his true motivation behind issuing the bond.  They see it as an attempt to hold the line on property taxes for the 2013 election.  And really, who's to say they are wrong?  Lumping the bond revenue into the general fund does a tremendous disservice to our cause.

2.  The Islanders do not know how to run a political campaign.

And really, who's expecting them to; they are a hockey organization not a political outfit. But if they were smart, they would have hired outside counsel that they unfortunately did not do.  This left the campaign in the hands of the ignorant or even worse, the incompetent.  Case in point: I'm in their database, so every year I am called to see if I want season tickets, yet I have not received one phone call encouraging me to vote on Monday.  The key to winning elections is indentifying your base and getting them out to the polls.  The Islanders have failed in both regards. Their advertisements are also boring and I believe, ineffective.  They are handing literature out a train stations, which is not an effective strategy.  When you can't identify your opposition, you don't run a blanket campaign because that could lead to No voters remembering to vote Monday.  Precision is key in an election like this.  They also have no "get out the vote" campaign or if they do it's obviously poor because I haven't heard about it.

3.  The fiscal conservatives/tea parties/Republican base have abandoned Mangano.

Or more accurately, they feel he betrayed them after they got him elected to office.  Mangano rode the populist conservative wave to the executive office two years ago, and; by proposing this bond he has forsaken their fiscally conservative principals.  That is why Jay Jacobs is running around as if this was the worst deal since we signed DP for 15 years, he's playing to this base for votes come November.  Plain and simple Jacobs is making a political play.  He's not ideologically opposed to this bond, he's a self interested political leader who sees his time as chairman slipping away if he does not win back the legislature this November.  The conservatives will be out to vote No on Monday.

4.  The August 1st election date/referendum rush job.

These two issues created a cloud of doubt in people's minds.  At town hall meetings citizens wanted details, which of course were not available.  This led them to question why we were moving forward with this so fast.  And this is not an unreasonable reaction from an overtaxed, underemployed electorate.  Not to mention the political calculation of the August 1st date was so overtly obvious.  People tend to expect politicians will act in their own best interests, but they don't want their noses rubbed in it.  They could have easily mitigated this by holding the election on primary day when turnout is extremely low to begin with.  The plan then would not have looked so devious and they still could have controlled turnout.

5.  The union movement is not that strong.

The times of the powerful private sector union movement are over.  Counting on the trade unions to deliver the votes is a risky strategy.  If, and only if, every union member their immediately family vote will they have enough of an impact to swing this vote to the yes.

6.  The town of Hempstead Republican machine is not fully behind this.

I had assumed this for a while now as these are the same people who make up the fiscal conservative movement in the county.  Not to mention, Mangano is not their guy.  It was supposed to be Kate's turn to run but she did not want to lose to Suozzi so Mangano became the placeholder.  But Suozzi took re-election for granted and we all know what happened next.  The TOH machine has no allegiance to Mangano.  And this weekend I heard the proof I needed to confirm my suspicions. First, TOH workers are only half-heartedly being told to vote yes.  Then, I heard that a die-hard TOH Republican employee I know is against the bond.  Once again, not a good sign, as success is contingent on Kate getting behind this and putting the machine to work.  Now neither is happening.  And remember, if the workers are forced to vote but they are not supportive, that's more detrimental then them not voting at all.

7.  The public sector employee unions will vote against the referendum.

With CSEA facing massive layoffs this year, the last thing they want to see is government borrowing and spending for something other then jobs for their union members.  It is in their self-interest to see this go down, elect the Democrats to head the legislature this fall and then lobby them to restore their job cuts.  This is probably the most rational reason people will vote against the project, and I can't say I blame them.

After saying all that, I am not without hope.  There is still an election to be had, votes to be counted and time for Islander fans to come through.  That's the biggest wild card in all of this.  Will the "greatest fans in the world" show they are and turn up when it matters most?  I hope I didn't ruin anyone's weekend with this post, but only if we are honest with ourselves can we know the enormity of the task at hand at Monday.  So make sure you tell everyone friend, relative, acquaintance, random person you run into on the street and think would vote Yes to vote on Monday.  As long as the polls are still open, we have a chance.

And finally, what to watch for Monday night: the returns in Hempstead.  If the yes vote gets over 40% in Hempstead I think the bond will pass.  If not, let's start praying there actually is a plan B.



  1. Patrick aka sign guyJuly 30, 2011 at 9:42 PM

    What a roller coaster ride this has been trying to get a new arena and keep our Islanders on Long Island!! I will be going to Church tomorrow to Pray and let the Upper Powers determine the outcome.

  2. Hey Joe!!!! (with apologies to Hendrix)

    So you resort to potentially illegal, at least unethical tactics to win the vote?

    Via a "contest" to get the vote out?

    SHAME ON YOU. Your words mean nothing to me.

    Win the vote or lose the vote.

    Maintain some principles.

    Don't count,tally or BUY anyone's vote
    Just my opinion.


  3. Islander505

    Im sure most of the people who registered for the "Rock the Vote" campaign didnt need any more motivation to call people to ask them to vote and im sure the campaign itself did not say "IF YOU SIGN UP TO WIN YOU MUST VOTE YES"

    Also, its not BUYING peoples votes. The contest did not give people money to VOTE YES, it just gave others a little extra reason to call others and try to gain support of others in the area by providing information to them. BUYING VOTES (As you charge people here) would be offering rewards to people to change their vote, not rewarding people for spreading the word of a vote and getting them to vote. Im about 100% (or pretty darned close to that) sure that the people signing up for the vote wouldve voted YES regardless, and calling up and trying to provide information to others about a vote as far as I know is not illegal

    Its like a politician leaving annoying voice-mails on peoples phones asking for votes except in this case, it would actually be informative and useful.

    I can't speak to the exact legality of the campaign, but to say its "BUYING VOTES" is simply wrong

    Thats just my opinon.

  4. As far as ToH Republicans/Conservatives not backing this, that is wrong. Friend of mine is a committee man in one of the clubs and they got their marching orders last week. They were to throw their full support behind this and vote yes and have been sent out to put the word out there that people need to vote yes. If they weren't gonna get in line with Mangano they would not have been told this. They would have been told nothing.

  5. 19 Isle in NJ 22July 31, 2011 at 8:52 AM

    My opinion as to why this referendum was "rushed" to August 1st is basically to give Nassau a so called "right of first refusal" in order for a last chance effort to some how stay put in Uniondale. This is important because of the deadline to submit a RFP for the Willets Point Development in Queens happens to be August 12th. I also think that it's kinda to late for Charles to even consider that as an option, even if Nassau says YES ... because if the legislature and NIFA say NO ... then that deadline will have passed anyway. I think gambling has come to Uniondale ... and it's Charles gambling on the voters and the Nassau politicians to finally do what should of been done over 20 years ago.

  6. John - thank you for your insight. I can't speak for why Joe wrote this, but I know I heard from the most conservative people I know in Nassau that they all plan to vote yes. In addition, the county DA's office employees, according to my friend who works there, are behind it; at least 2/3 are voting yes according to him.

    I think this is why we're so nervous about this - we don't do special elections here, and we don't therefore have a good handle on the voters who will turn out. Either way, John, thanks for sharing your perspective, and we're hoping that helps put us over the top.

    19 Isles - good insight my friend. Nassau has been failing the Islanders for 2 decades and this might be Nassau's last chance to get it right. Doesn't mean other sites in the area are out as options, but it does mean our backs are against the wall and we control our destiny here.

  7. Whats the difference between campaigning for a YES VOTE and this Rock the Referendum???Its just rewarding people for helping w the Campaign, no?

  8. I think this is an excellently written piece.